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Helping Your Child Succeed on Their New Instrument

By Chad Criswell

Playing an instrument is not going to guarantee that your child will one day be more successful than someone that is not in the school band, but the pride, confidence, and initiative that being a member of a team builds in young people will serve him the rest of his life. In order to ensure that this positive growth occurs you as a parent need to take the lead and help your child develop good practice habits.

As a parent you have always done your best to give your child everything needed to succeed in life. By allowing your child to learn a new instrument and play in the school band you are adding another brick to a strong foundation that will support your child in all aspects of her development. Playing an instrument is not going to guarantee that your child will one day be more successful than someone that is not in the school band, but the pride, confidence, and initiative that being a member of a team builds in young people will serve him the rest of his life. In order to ensure that this positive growth occurs you as a parent need to take the lead and help your child develop good practice habits.

Every parent needs to set up a daily block of time during the afternoon or evening for their new band member to practice on their instrument. This practice time must be given the same weight and importance as would any other piece of homework. If you treat practice time in this manner, your new musician will also see it as important and will eventually work into a routine that will produce steady improvement. Make sure that the area your musician is practicing in is free from distractions. No TV, no radio, no iPods, just your new band student and his or her instrument. A good beginner practice session is twenty to thirty minutes each night. Don't let them count the time it takes to put their instrument together or clean it afterwards. Twenty minutes of practice means twenty minutes of playing time with lips on the instrument!

There are other things that can negatively impact a new band student. One that comes up more often than I would like is when I hear a student tell me that "Dad doesn't like it when I practice, or "I couldn't practice because my brother can't hear the TV while I'm playing." On one occasion I actually had a student who was forced to go outside and practice in their barn with the horses IN THE WINTER! These kinds of situations kill any hope a student has of reaching his or her full potential as a musician and as a member of the school band. Do everything in your power to keep the experience or learning the instrument positive and enjoyable when at home.

Eventually the excitement of learning a new instrument will wear off, and this is the time that you as a parent must step in and rekindle the fire. Teachers know that the best possible way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. For a change of pace, why not have your band student teach you how to play a few notes on their instrument? Ask them to teach you how to put it together, how to clean it, how to place the lips on the mouthpiece, how to sit up with good posture and horn position, how to get a good tone, etc. By doing these things you will show your new band student that you are interested in what they are doing and that you are proud of them for working so hard. Being in the school Band is meant to be a positive experience, but that positive experience must continue at home as well for true learning and a love of music to develop.

About The Author
Chad Criswell is the Director of Bands at Western Dubuque High School. He holds a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in educational technology from the University of Northern Iowa. Mr. Criswell hosts a web site dedicated specifically to music education topics of interest to students, parents, and teachers located at


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